Evan Rachel Wood is the latest Hollywood actress to use her fame and platform to stand up for survivors of sexual abuse and demand change for everyone.
At a House Judiciary Subcommittee on Feb 27, she was one of three women to testify about the experience of sexual assault to urge Congress to implement the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act in all fifty states, rather than just on a federal level.
“I’m here today to use my position as an artist, survivor, mother, and advocate to bring a human voice to the population of 25 million survivors in the U.S. who are currently experiencing inequality under the law and who desperately need basic civil rights,” she began.
Wood recounted her years-long battle with domestic and sexual abuse at the hands of her partner, emphasizing how disturbingly similar they sounded to too many other stories:
“It started slow but escalated over time, including threats against my life, severe gaslighting and brainwashing, [and] waking up to the man that claimed to love me raping what he believed to be my unconscious body. And the worst part: Sick rituals of binding me up by my hands and feet to be mentally and physically tortured until my abuser felt I had proven my love for them.
In this moment, being tied up and being beaten and told unspeakable things, I truly felt like I could die. Not just because my abuser said to me, ‘I could kill you right now,’ but because in that moment I felt like I left my body and I was too afraid to run. He would find me.”
Wood went on to bring attention to another devastating aspect of sexual abuse, describing how the trauma made her more susceptible to other instances assault:
“Because of this abuse when I was pushed onto the floor of a locked storage closest by another attacker, after hours at a bar, my body instinctively knew what to do: Disappear, go numb, make it go away. Being abused and raped previously made it easier for me to be raped again, not the other way around.”
She finished by explaining how the aftermath of rape plays a much larger role than we talk about:
“Seven years after my rapes — plural — I was diagnosed with long term PTSD. Which I had been living with all that time without knowledge about my condition. I simply thought I was going crazy. I struggled with self-harm to the point of two suicide attempts, which landed me in a psychiatric hospital for a short period of time. This was, however, a turning point in my life when I started seeking professional help to deal with my trauma and mental stress. But others are not so fortunate, and because of this rape is often more than a few minutes of trauma, but slow death.”
The bill that Wood and the two other women (RISE CEO Amanda Nguyen and RAINN Vice President Rebecca O’Connor) are fighting for protects the basic right of survivors of assault. This includes retaining the right to have their rape kit preserved for the entire duration of the stature of limitations or up to 20 years, as well as the right to know about the results of their forensic results.
Wood finished with a final appeal to the committee, calling the bill “a first step” to protecting survivors. “It’s a safety net that may help save someone’s life one day.”
You can watch the full House Judiciary hearing and Wood’s speech (beginning at 18:30) above.